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The Only Cafe

9 West Seneca Street, Vernon, NY - (315) 829-3030
Posted By Bill Homan on 3/2/2014 5:56:00 AM
I had first heard about The Only Cafe in an email a few years ago from fellow Roadfooder Lexi. Her brother, David, owns the cafe and she mentioned that the next time I was in the Central NY area visiting family, I should give him a call and stop by for lunch. In my many visits since then I am sure glad I took her advice. There aren't set hours so it would be a good idea to call ahead. When I asked David if I could see a menu he replied, "I don't have a menu but I collect them!" I asked what kind of food he had and he said, "I make big batches of food that I like to eat!" I knew good things were in store for me.

Over the past few years I've had a very comforting pulled pork, Hatch green chile and Syracuse salt potato stew, a Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumble, with fresh stalks from Bill, his rhubarb (and other produce) guy, a flourless chocolate cake made with raspberry jam, cinnamon and coffee that brought out all of those flavors, lemon icebox pie with a crushed lemon candy topping, homemade pralines (scotch, Kahlua, bourbon-pecan and tequila-green chile flavors) and a rib-sticking dish of biscuits and sausage gravy with grits and eggs. David used to make pecan biscuits, but he has a customer who is allergic to nuts, so he began experimenting and came up with crystallized ginger biscuits. The spicy, chewy ginger is an inspired choice to pair with a soft flaky bisuit. And anything on his homemade sesame bread is worth getting. It's perfect for snacking on by itself.

In addition to the wonderful, inspired food is a one-of-a-kind atmosphere. The best way I can describe it is as a laid back small town cafe. The cafe is filled with pictures, knick knacks and most everything has a story behind it as to how it was acquired. David is a one-man operation that is equal parts cook, server, cashier, storyteller and historian. From the 6-foot tall Gumby that accompanied him on a cross-country road trip to his days as a taxi driver in New York City, to spending time with Dawn Wells (Maryann from "Gilligan's Island-she was always my favorite too!) in L.A., David has led a colorful life and the conversations we've shared have been the perfect accompaniment to his cooking.

And he has a good local following too. I ran a half marathon in my hometown of Rome, NY a few years back and when I mentioned to my running partners that I was heading to the cafe after the race they said, "Dave's place? We love him!" On my most recent visit, it was a slow day and I was the only customer there. Marty Robbins was playing in the background and for a moment I felt like I had gone back in time: no cell phones, none of the modern day distractions that have become so normal these days, just two guys shootin' the breeze about whatever topics interested them. If you are ever in Central NY, The Only Cafe should definitely be on your short list of places to go. There's nothing else like it!

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Scorecard

5 - Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Overall: Legendary - Worth driving from anyplace
Biscuits & sausage gravy
Brisket sandwich
Blueberry-Rhubarb Crumble
Pralines
Flourless Chocolate Cake
Lemon Icebox Pie
Pulled Pork, Green Chile & Salt Potato Stew
Hot Ham & Cheese sandwich
Biscuits
Chili
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Reviewers Photos [Upload Your Photos]

An incredibly tender brisket sandwich on Dave's homemade sesame bread.
"An incredibly tender brisket sandwich on Dave's homemade sesame bread."
Bill Homan





The combination of smoked pulled pork, Hatch green chiles and Syracuse salt potatoes was a winner with me.
"The combination of smoked pulled pork, Hatch green chiles and Syracuse salt potatoes was a winner with me."
Bill Homan


I have yet to try the pizza but I have seen countless people order pies to go. Next on my 'must try' list.
"I have yet to try the pizza but I have seen countless people order pies to go. Next on my 'must try' list."
Bill Homan


These beauties were made with bourbon & pecans.
"These beauties were made with bourbon & pecans."
Bill Homan


The raspberry jam, cinnamon and coffee incorporated into this cake really shone through in each bite.
"The raspberry jam, cinnamon and coffee incorporated into this cake really shone through in each bite."
Bill Homan


Dave's rhubarb guy, Bill, brought some fresh stalks for this tart & sweet creation.
"Dave's rhubarb guy, Bill, brought some fresh stalks for this tart & sweet creation."
Bill Homan


A warm, comforting bowl of chili on a cold winter's day hit the spot.
"A warm, comforting bowl of chili on a cold winter's day hit the spot."
Bill Homan


Mmmm...a hot ham & cheese on that homemade bread.
"Mmmm...a hot ham & cheese on that homemade bread. "
Bill Homan


A trio of tasty pralines from the top: scotch, Kahlua and tequila & green chile flavors.
"A trio of tasty pralines from the top: scotch, Kahlua and tequila & green chile flavors."
Bill Homan


Crystallized ginger biscuits with sausage gravy, eggs and grits...an inspired combination.
"Crystallized ginger biscuits with sausage gravy, eggs and grits...an inspired combination."
Bill Homan


Tart, sweet and topped with crushed lemon candies, this was the perfect end to my meal.
"Tart, sweet and topped with crushed lemon candies, this was the perfect end to my meal."
Bill Homan


Homemade ginger biscuits.
"Homemade ginger biscuits."
Bill Homan


So many pictures on the walls of old films, celebrities and local history.
"So many pictures on the walls of old films, celebrities and local history."
Bill Homan


What a fascinating book.  Just one of the many interesting and cool things to look through at the cafe.
"What a fascinating book. Just one of the many interesting and cool things to look through at the cafe."
Bill Homan


The supply of bric-a-brac is endless.
"The supply of bric-a-brac is endless."
Bill Homan


This might be the biggest sign in the place with the cafe's name on it.
"This might be the biggest sign in the place with the cafe's name on it."
Bill Homan


It's not everyday you see a clock like this one.
"It's not everyday you see a clock like this one."
Bill Homan


I never knew a jar of gefilte fish could look so happy.
"I never knew a jar of gefilte fish could look so happy."
Bill Homan


Gumby, posing for the photogs in front of Sheriff Andy's patrol car.
"Gumby, posing for the photogs in front of Sheriff Andy's patrol car."
Bill Homan


Oh, the stories he could tell of his road trip travels across the country with Dave!
"Oh, the stories he could tell of his road trip travels across the country with Dave!"
Bill Homan


The exterior 'pizza' neon only hints at the great food that awaits anyone who steps inside.
"The exterior 'pizza' neon only hints at the great food that awaits anyone who steps inside."
Bill Homan



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